Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. Everything else belongs to G.R.R. Martin and HBO.
Summary: "In the songs all knights are gallant, all maids are beautiful, and the sun is always shining." Jaime Lannister learns that this is true.
A/N: This takes place after Daenerys comes to take her throne. I love Dany, and this is merely the first of possibly three chapters. So please hold any indignant horses you have chaffing at their bits and wait for the end of the ride. As for Brienne and Jaime, how can anyone get enough of them? The Muse railroaded me into this; I can't write anything else!
The Kingslayer and the Maiden Fair
He has stood in this great hall many times, and his place had always been at the foot of the throne, just beyond the steps. 'Guarding greatness. Guarding dragons,' Jaime Lannister thinks with more than a tinge of irony, trying not to move his arms and legs too much because the jangle of the chains resonates so loudly in the silence. To his enemies, it must sound like sweet music. Jaime tries his best not to feel ashamed, but he cannot help but remember days gone by, days long past never to return, especially as he eyes Barristan Selmy in his white armour, the graceful drape of that long white cloak that covers him and haunts Jaime like a ghost. Honour makes for poor protection on a field where steel, chainmail and leather soaked in blood speak more loudly. But a knight is nothing without it. He has always known that, even when he put the Last Hand of the Mad King to the sword, and then the king himself. Even when the term "Kingslayer" had been coined especially for him, he went hunting for the pyromancers that remained. Perhaps only Varys knew what he had done in secret, for honour that Jaime has stubbornly clung to because he forged it for himself against all the vows he had ever spoken. It is honour as he knows it, and because of that, he holds his head high and blinds himself to all but the silver queen sitting on a throne built with swords.
Daenerys Targaryen is the blood of the dragon in ways that her mad father dreamt he would be. 'She is Rhaegar come again, only that the fire loves her.' She even looked like the brother whom Robert Baratheon had slain on the Trident, with her long silver hair mixed with gold, those large purple eyes that could be as hard as gems and—if one looked deeply enough—as ageless as sorrow or joy. A queen before she arrived at Westeros and queens that have survived long enough to sack cities, rescue innocents, burn enemies alive and pay them back in the same coin are more than girls hiding behind dragons. It is a bitter lesson the lords of Westeros learnt far later than himself. 'And here we all are, having bent the knee. So why am I the only one in chains?'
Of course Jaime knows why. Daenerys knows the very steps she walks upon are the steps baptised in her father's blood. In this hall, before these steps, with another dragon on the throne, Jaime's betrayal carries an invisible stench that cannot be washed away and which must be answered. 'Blood pays for blood.' And his has paid for Tommen's. At least his son will be safe. In Dorne, Myrcella has the love of a prince to keep her safe. So as a father, his part is done and he has finished whatever little was in his power to do.
It takes three defeats and the loss of almost half their forces before Jaime gathers his courage for the inevitable and seeks a private audience with his king. There, he gifts the young boy with another title—bastard. On sleepless nights and bright days that crawl by with unbearable slowness, in the little square that forms his cell, Jaime relives moments in his mind. Tommen's anger. Tommen's tears. The sound of quills, papers, silver cups that go crashing against walls, the doors that burst open as two Kingsguard rush in and Jaime can see in their eyes the fear that he has done it again, although all know him to be the boy's uncle. Kingslayer. It always comes back to Aerys. And in the weeks that follow, Tommen negotiates a truce with Daenerys Targaryen and of his own accord, gives up the throne that was never his in exchange for the lives of the lords and ladies in his service. He does give Jaime to the queen though and whether it is the bitterness of a son and king betrayed or the demands of a queen who will not be denied vengeance, Jaime will never know. He has not seen Tommen since.
'Nor Cersei.' The fate of his twin, once his greatest love, is also unknown to him and though it is troubling, it does not savage him the way it would have once. Not much affects him nowadays actually. He can count the number of things he cares about with the one hand the Bloody Mummers left him. And one of those is sitting up there next to the Iron Throne. Tyrion Lannister, a brother betrayed, a brother still loved, even when Jaime thought him guilty of regicide, now Hand of the Targaryen Queen. A brother who is now reading out the pronouncement that Jaime Lannister, Kingslayer is to be executed by tomorrow's morn. In spite of himself, the softest echoes of the jangling chains reverberate through the air now filled with sniggers and indrawn breaths. Jaime ignores the crowd around him, people who once would have licked his father's arse if it meant receiving Lannister favours. A lazy smile curls the corner of his mouth, his green eyes shine and his chin goes up by degrees. Even though shackled and in rags, no one does smug, defiant arrogance the way he can. A lion shorn of its mane is still a lion and Jaime has had enough stripped away from him to find the strength to look inside and keep himself steady on his feet.
This time, the chains sing louder, above the startled murmurs of the crowd and Jaime swallows his exasperation as well as the wild surge of emotion that blazes low in his belly and sears its way to his heart. It takes a moment to breath properly again but that is all it takes for her to shove her way unceremoniously through men and women who are once again sneering at her audacity. 'Perhaps one or two admire her though.' He lifts his head and watches as Brienne of Tarth makes her way to him, alone. Behind her, Sandor Clegane holds back Sansa Stark, the Queen in the North ever so inconspicuously. Arya Stark's mouth is a tight line and Jaime cannot see the expression on little Rickon's face because he is dwarfed by the enormous direwolf the size of small horse that has eyeing Jaime like his next meal the moment he set eyes on him.
"Get back, wench," he hisses softly enough so that only she can hear him. They are both easily amongst the tallest people in the room, except for Sandor Clegane, and his words find themselves easily enough into her ear. The woman is slightly taller than him and Jaime wonders if he will ever get used to that fact. What he is never going to get used to is her simply ignoring his good advice, turning his words into wind and flinging them away into as much before she charges off into peril on his behalf. "Brienne," he pleads and that draws her gaze. She has the most beautiful eyes and Jaime is hellbent on keeping them that way. No one gets between a dragon and its prey, and lives long. If there's one thing the Targaryens and their dragons have taught him, it is that.
"Your Grace, if you may permit me to speak—" Brienne shifts even as he moves and Jaime finds himself once again behind her. He would call her "wench" once again but he does not think he can do so as quietly as before so he holds his tongue.
Daenerys Targaryen holds up a hand and when she speaks, there is rapt silence. "You have said all you can say already, Lady Brienne of Tarth."
Jaime finds himself staring at the back of Brienne's head and wondering what in the seven hells would have possessed her to approach the Dragon Queen and why in Westeros and Essos had Sansa Stark allowed her lady knight to take such a risk. The fingers on his hand twitch, a reminder that Brienne of Tarth is one of those things that matter and the cold steel around his wrist also reminds him that once upon a time, he had kept her safe under such circumstances and that he would do so again in a heartbeat. But the Black Goat of Qohor is not equivalent of the Three-Headed Dragon and Jaime tastes helplessness like bile at the back of his throat.
"But blood must answer for blood. And only death can pay for life." There is something about the way she says it that tells Jaime there is a story behind that. He has heard tales of the Dragon Queen, how she murdered her husband and burnt his body on a pyre with her dragon eggs so that the monsters would hatch, fed on the life of her dead Khal. Jaime does not believe that. Daenerys Targaryen has shown too much mercy and she has at least one honourable man serving her who would not condone such a deed.
"And on that, we can both fully agree," Jaime quips. Both women glare at him but for different reasons. On many occasions, his quick tongue and Lannister charm have both saved and damned him by equal turns. He is not Tyrion, the clever one who always measures words and wields them the way Jaime used to wield a sword. Still, he is going to try his best and that means not being silenced by a queen with three dragons and a lady knight who is possibly stronger than all the men in the room. 'Except for maybe the Hound. But my money's on Brienne, if I had any to bet that is.' Absurdly, it makes him want to chuckle. Casterly Rock is Tyrion's, and home to Tommen. Jaime has been stripped of his post and all honours, including his knighthood and Tyrion has severed all Lannister ties with him. Again, his hand twitches. "A Lannister always pays his debts."
Brienne flushes an alarming shade of red and Jaime knows she is just itching to knock him to the ground. And possibly gag him. It does not sound all that unappealing actually. On her throne, a look of satisfaction fleets over the Targaryen queen's face. "Then it is settled." Daenerys strokes light fingers over the arm of the Iron Throne. Jaime wonders when or if it will ever make her bleed and knows that he will never know.
"If Your Grace will permit, I will pay the Kingslayer's debt."
"No!" For once, a Stark and a Lannister speak as one and Jaime exchanges swift looks with the Queen in the North. Sansa Stark with her Tully red hair, a more refined version of her mother when the latter was a human body of living flesh, a girl who survived his son to grow into a woman wise enough to give the strength of the North to the battle against eternal winter and for that, she keeps her crown as long as her allegiance is given to the Targaryens. Unlike Torrhen, she did not have to bend the knee.
It is as though they never spoke. "What do you propose?" Daenerys tilts her head and for one beguiling moment, she seems more girl than woman. Cersei would have approved; Jaime grits his teeth, a muscle in his cheek ticking away. Women could be dangerous like that and Brienne who has always been more of a knight than anything else might not know this.
"A trial by combat. If I win, I ask that the Kingslayer's life and person be spared, whatever else Your Grace wishes to do with him." Brienne dares much by asking such a thing. Jaime knows she would ask for his freedom but even an honoured knight of the North must know her limits.
"He killed his king," the Dragon Queen counters.
"Yes, Your Grace, that he did. And then some more."
If Jaime could have taken that moment back in Harrenhal… well, he would not have. But he would have made her swear upon Renly's honour to shut her mouth and never repeat the tale. One does not tell a conqueror that her sire was filled with madness and hoarding enough wildfire to burn a city full of innocents to the ground. To be told that her father's murderer was the saviour of these people would be especially galling; the fact that there were no witnesses would be rubbing salt in the wound. Jaime doubts Varys has spoken for him. Why would the new queen believe Brienne? That the Maid of Tarth is unharmed and even present in the hall is in itself a miracle. Robert Baratheon would have taken his warhammer to her. Aerys would have roasted her in her armour. And his own son would have set his Kingsguard on her for entertainment.
"You would vouch for that with your life?"
"I would, Your Grace."
"Even if I name Drogon my champion?"
Even Barristan Selmy starts, although he does not turn back. Tyrion's eyes dart to the Queen. Nobody tells Daenerys Stormborn that she is unfair, it is unjust and unworthy. Jaime does though, loudly, furiously, with a roar in his voice and a snarl in his words even as the Unsullied who marched him from his cell into the hall seize him as he lunges forward. They assume he is after the Queen. What he really wants is the gallant knight who is standing before him and a dragon slavering for his blood. She is not unafraid, for her face turns pale and the pink, puckered scar on her right cheek stands out in sharp relief against the white, as do the mass of freckles that litter her skin.
"Seven hells, wench! Tell her no! This is madness—" And then the gag is between his teeth, he is being wrestled and dragged from the hall and Jaime cannot hear what the crowd around them is saying for all the blood rushing in his ears. He hopes Sansa Stark knows better than to give up her best knight for a lost cause and commands Brienne to go back to Winterfell. To Tarth even. Some place where there are no lions to save and dragons to kill her.
When the doors are shut on him, he does not get to turn back and glance at her, to see if she has withdrawn her offer. He knows she will not. When they throw him into the cell, Jaime clips his chin against the rough stone and tastes blood on his tongue. He spends the rest of the night shouting until his throat is so raw he thinks he might have permanently damaged it. He demands to see Brienne, to speak to her Queen, for an audience with the Targaryen conqueror. Dawn comes and his words are down to whispers, and in the silence that smothers his cell he begs Brienne to come to her senses. Crippled lions are not worth her while, Jaime thinks, his eyes closed, his one hand aching to twine his fingers in her hair and give her a great good shaking to make her come to her senses.
"If this is about Catelyn Stark's shade I'll kill her myself," Jaime mutters and for a moment, he smells blood, hears the ring of steel on steel, a brutal song muffled only flesh and silenced by death as they hack their way through the men who come at them in waves. Hyle Hunt is armed with a sword and Podrick has long knives he snatched off a body. Men fall like trees before a storm as Brienne swings and parries, and Jaime is just glad enough that the sessions he endured with Addam Marbrand and Ilyn Payne have left him fit enough to hold his own.
The grating of his cell door as it swings open and the sudden jerk of his own head alert him to the fact that he has been dreaming but before it flees, the last thing he sees is Catelyn Stark's hideous eyes staring out from a face worn ragged by scars, death and hatred even as he strikes her head from her neck. For days afterward, Brienne does not speak to him. She cried as she buried her lady, and he cannot think less of her for it. If anything, he would have done it himself just to spare her, but Brienne cannot bear him and so he endures her cold silence as she mourns.
'And later she thanked me.' Jaime's eyes burn as the guards clap chains on him once again and yank him to his feet. 'Thanked me for doing it, for saving her from betraying her lady, from being an oathbreaker. She begged my forgiveness for her betrayal. Begged the likes of me.' It is a long and very public walk from his tiny cell to the harsh bright light of the city above. The people mock him, jeer at him and some pelt him until the Unsullied order them to desist. After that, they have only words to throw at him. Kingslayer. Sisterfucker. "Hear me roar," several of them scream and laughter bursts around him like so many explosions.
Words are wind. They cannot touch him. But what horrifies Jaime Lannister is that he is not being led to an executioner's block. They are taking him out into the streets and in the distance, above the uneven buildings and through the smoke of so many chimneys, Rhaenys' hill looms with its jagged crown.
He has seen Brienne of Tarth in a pit with a bear. And now he is going to see her in a pit with the most ferocious of the Targaryen dragons. Jaime starts walking faster. Two streets later, he is pulling against his guards, snapping at them to go faster and cursing them when they ignore him. Above, the shadow of a dragon passes and Jaime feels his eyes burn again. He has never feared death, not his own. But he is terrified now, and furious. As he drags the guards behind him, Jaime thinks about Florian the fool and all the ridiculous songs of knights who have died for maidens, songs that he scoffed at because the knights were hopelessly idealistic and unrealistically honourable. Jaime knows better than most what knights are, what knights do.
Brienne too has learnt to disregard such tales. It amused him to listen to her grumble about them, to stop his singing with blunt remarks. She felt they left someone like her out, a woman who was not the maiden fair, a warrior whose knighthood was unrecognised and rejected by almost all who knew her. 'I should have told her.' The force behind that thought is so powerful he aches with it. How can she not know? There are no knights like those in the songs, except for her. 'Only her.'
And if he cannot save her… Well, she is worth dying for too.